Do You Value Life Or Death? Think About It.

‎"We'll look back on this 50 to 100 years from now- we'll shake our heads and say, 'What were people thinking? They took these people who were very nearly viable, just barely dysfunctional, and put them in an oven or buried them under the ground, when there were people who could have put them into cryopreservation.'"-Max More, New CEO of Alcor

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Tags: Alcor, Life, causality, choice, cryopreservation, death, determinism, extension, freewill, life

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Comment by MCT on January 23, 2011 at 7:12pm

JC,

Therapeutic hypothermia and the support/funding, research, practice, success and implications associated with it are relevant. They demonstrate that personhood is still viable after minutes of warm ischemia time. They also demonstrate that there is funding and interest in research and practical applications of temperature effects on neurons. And along with concurrent advancements in organ transplant preservation research/practice, nanotech, biochemistry and resuscitation, it will become more and more likely. The resuscitation research and training that goes into both regular resuscitation as well as therapeutic hypothermia and the beginning of the vitrification process are all very closely related. I am not suggesting that cryogenics is practical because of TH, but it is related.

 

I dispute your claim that we cannot be sure about anything. You are aware, I hope, that skepticism fails at its outset. You cannot claim to be sure that absolute knowledge is unobtainable. Don't you see this is self contradictory? If you cannot have knowledge, you cannot know that knowledge is unobtainable. 

Again, I am sure, I have knowledge, that 2+2=4, that BO is president and that an untethered balloon filled with helium will go up in this atmosphere. 

Information can be correct or incorrect. It is not sufficient to be called knowledge. It is knowledge when it is integrated without contradiction. 

Reality is the objective framework. We all have relatively subjective views of the same place. It is our view that is subjective as compared to each other's view. In both of our heads there is a more or less accurate subjective view of the same objective universe. The one that was here before both of us.

Existence exists first. It must. One, our brains evolved over billions of years, from way back before there was any perception of any kind (that means no consciousness) and two, to be conscious, you must be conscious of something. Consciousness starts as the integration of perceptions which come from reality. Our brains are pattern recognition machines designed to try and be happy. Light, sound, etc. (perceptions) go in, concept formation occurs, and with it language and thought and hopefully, reasoned action. Our brains must be programmed from reality for them to work. They are beautifully designed to gain knowledge about this world. It is constantly being bombarded by and making comparisons of patterns of patterns and bringing into consciousness the one's that are perceived as most relevant to the person's happiness. 

The ideas of choice and causality are not mutually exclusive. There is no change that occurs in the deterministic space-time continuum, while you make a choice. You could not have knowledge of another probable, yet unrealized, reality. What known decision are you comparing a choice to? Choice is a type of determined process. It does not interrupt any otherwise occurring phenomenon. It is the occurring phenomenon. You have two ways you can go. Left or right. Your choice is causally dependent on the information you have, how your brain processes that information and new information coming in. It is not magic. It only appears to be so. Choice is a mechanistic part of the causal chain. There is no unmoved mover in the brain. A perception enters the consciousness of a person and a decision is made. The information went in and an action followed. This brings me to your scenario. We are organic machines, it is obvious. Just because you can't see to the utmost detail, does not negate the fact that an event is occurring at all. When I chose to breath, it is a matter for the physioneurobiochemists to figure out the details, the facts remain, unless I am paralyzed, every time I choose to move my leg, a series of real known events take place that results in leg movement (if my leg isn't tied down or something). Decision making is the same thing as a reflex, only more complicated. There is no break in the chain. If something very hot touches the skin on your hand, a known series of causal interactions leads to intense muscle contraction of your arm, we do not call it a decision, but it is the same general thing. It is simply that when a person reacts to a new perception or a new concept, a more complex interaction of electroneurochemical transmissions occurs. I think the onus is up to YOU to explain this interruption. There isn't one. Like being asked to prove God doesn't exist, you're asking me to prove that making a determined choice interrupts causality. It doesn't. You cannot prove a negative. 

It's like you're fooled by Zeno's paradox. Just because you can always halve the distance to your destination, mathematically, does not mean you'll never get there. Just because we don't have a unified field theory and all knowledge that can possibly be known and whatever else might satisfy you, does not mean we do not have an objective framework. Our ability to use reason and logic to store information and knowledge about the universe is what makes us so damn powerful! We have learned so much about how to manipulate this world that we have gone to the moon, we have people walking around with artificially intelligent machines keeping them alive, my carpet gets cleaned by two robots that put themselves back on the charger when done and I can have a face-to-face conversation with someone in Europe on an object that fits in my hand and costs the price of a week or two of food. The universe to be commanded, must be obeyed (Ayn Rand)! And we do a fucking great job of learning about this place and pulling its causal strings!

I need not represent reality 100% accurately. I would be copying it then. Perfection is unobtainable. In order for a locally organized self-aware piece of the universe to gain knowledge, he or she must be within it and interact with other parts of it. EMR must bounce off nearby objects and interact with sense organs, which then take this limited information and compare and contrast it with everything else previously stored and make calculations as to the best way to move forward. The more we use logic and reason the better off we are.

The processes of logic and reason are dependent of the law of identity. For simple concepts to be made and language and thought to begin, we must know that contradictions do not exist, in reality, metaphysically. Books slide, if pushed, balls roll. A thing, to exist, must have identity. Or you wouldn't see it. It must have borders or you couldn't distinguish it from something else. It must be some things and not others. Paper cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A girl cannot be pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. Simple rules that we all learn first, before particle physics. You cannot use the rules of knowledge acquisition, which depend on the law of identity, to show that knowledge is unobtainable or that somehow, for you, 2+2 is something other than 4 or that the Earth doesn't spin while it orbits the sun, or it doesn't orbit the galaxy. 

 

You go from existence existing before conscious as above and you go from being conscious of something in particular which necessitates its identity and since all entities must have identity, which means they do what it is in their nature to do, based on their structure, position and momentum, causality must be universal. With these basic axioms, or primaries of thought, we are able to form concepts by grouping patterns of patterns into a knowledge based with the use of reason. You cannot go and then use this ability to use reason and logic to discredit that things that are reducible to perceptual evidence, like choice is, don't exist and what's worse, you're telling me that you know that we can't know. Well, then, how do you know? You just feel it? God told you (revelations)? Intuition? What's intuition? You guess? You hope? Instinct? Hunch? Your gut? You cannot.

 

How could Japan and the US both independently get to the space station if their knowledge was not objective? I'm not saying it is perfect knowledge. I'm saying it is integrating without contradiction (that's how you take out the subjective bias). It's not perfect, but it's not subjective. There is zero difference in your and my answer to the question: "What was the date when two airliners crashed into the World Trade Center?" This is objective knowledge.  

Comment by John Camilli on January 23, 2011 at 4:08pm

Let me give you this scenerio that I have positted to several others. I have yet to hear a response to this, so maybe you can do it where they failed.

 

A believer in choice says to me "I have choice! I can choose to breath very quickly right now, see?" and they take several deep breaths to emphasize their point.

 

I say "Was it you who caused yourself to breath like that or was it the expansion and contraction of your lungs that caused it?"

 

Of course they ahve to admit it was their lungs, but they retort that "I made the decision to move my lungs."

 

I respond again "Was it you that caused your lungs to move or was it the ATP in the muscle tissue there that did it?" If they know anything about biology, they'll have to admit it was the ATP.

 

But the believer will persist that "I caused the ATP to be released by deciding to breath the way I did."

 

"But was it you who released the ATP, or was it the Mitochandrai in your cells, which had received electrical stimlui from your nervous system?" The conversation usually devolves into an irrational insistance on the believer's part, but perhaps you can keep gong where they left off.

 

I could keep going on for a long time, but you clearly know enough about these processes to do it in your own mind. The question I have is, where do you actually interrupted the processes of your body with "choice?" And how?

Comment by John Camilli on January 23, 2011 at 4:00pm

Okay, we are misunderstanding each other. Again, I think we are arguing the same points in different words.

 

I suspect you are right about being able to re-animate a biological system from vitrification in the future. I was only saying that your reference to therapeutic hypothermia was off topic. The reason TH works has nothing to do with why cryogenics may or may not work. They are vastly difference concepts. Still, I don't discredit anyone's wish to be flash frozen. I'll be on that list myself if we don't come up with immortality before I'm an old man.

 

As for chemical reactions, I think you brushed over my post too quickly. I said exactly what you're now saying, but you are contradicting your earlier statements. You say we have choice; that we make choices all the time. But the idea of choice and the idea causality are mutually exclusive. If everything is deterministic, the chain of causality cannot be interrupted. Would you not define "choice" as something that interrupts an otherwise determined process? I think that's how most people define it, but that definition just doesn't work if reality is entirely causal. You can't have both. Pick one.

 

As for knowledge, you are defeating yourself again. You say "Nonsense! Reality is the framework.... Something is correct only in as much as it represents reality." That means nothing is correct because we have yet to devise a theory which accurately represents reality. You might argue that we have theories that are close to representing reality, but unless you know for sure that there are a finite number of theories, then you are saying that we are close to infinity, which is a silly thing to say. We won't be close to being right until we are actually right. Until then, we are wrong.

 

You also say "...the more knowledge you gain about something, the more comprehensive your understanding." I have to insist that you are using the word "knowledge" where you should be using the word "information." This statement would be more properly said as "...the more information you gain, the broader the framework of your considerations."

 

"Knowledge is information that has been integrated, both hierarchically and contextually, into a pre-existing knowledge base without contradiction, with the use of reason." I agree with this definition, but the existing knowledge base of man is limited to steps 1 and 2 of the epistemological foundation you mentioned in the "choice" post. We cannot actually get to step 3, as I explained there, which is why we are limited to knowing that we exist, and why the rest of our "knowledge" is only subjective, not absolute. If you are thinking of knowledge as a subjective measure, then I agree with you. An individual's experience would define the framework of his or her reality, and his or her information could be fitted into it to make judgements that are accurate for them. There is no absolute framework that exists outside of the individual; no absolute knowledge.

Comment by MCT on January 22, 2011 at 7:57pm
JC,
On cryogenics: I am not suggesting that therapeutic hypothermia is the solution to cryogenics. That's ridiculous. We are now capable of have a substantial effect on slowing the decay process. And it continues to improve as our understanding and technique improve. We are on the cutting edge of minimizing macroscopic cracking and microscopic ice formation. Animal research has clearly demonstrated this with newer preservation fluids. I am not suggesting that I know how to vitrify and reanimate someone today and I am also conceding that it might be too problematic for hundreds of years still and I might not make it because of my archaic preservation method. But you, my friend, have not been able to, nor could you, give me one valid reason why it will not work. It very well might happen and maybe it won't even be useful by then, but, if you consider recent technological progress and conservatively estimate further progress in the next 100 years, future technology might be able to reanimate someone vitrified today. You cannot know that it is not possible or that it won't work. But, I do know that if I discard my decomposing remains in a traditional manner, it will be the end of me. That is for sure. We've just gotten started with this stuff and we have already made considerable progress. Planning the unnecessary destruction of your body when we already know how to significantly halt decomposition is an ugly celebration of death.

So you think chemical reaction are not causal. Simple processes are not causal and complex ones are part causal and part mystical because choice is mystical and a hideously deforme......some dumb metaphor. Man, you've lost it, if you ever had it to begin with.

All chemical reactions are causal. That's how come there is a field called 'chemistry'. We can measure a certain quantity of a given compound and know how fast it reacts with a certain quantity of another compound to give you a known quantity of a known product as well as how much and what type of energy has been given off. All because of the law of causality. Your particle physics has 'gone to your head'; in order to prove something or say it has validity, you must use reason and logic, both dependent on the law of causality, you must demonstrate its causal link to perception, this does not work if things can be random and mystical. And now, you're telling me that you have knowledge, that is valid, presumably checked by the same process that requires causal law, that chemical reactions are not causal. So you can't measure exactly to the perfect little end; you won't find one! There is a limit to our perception; get over it.

Knowledge is information that has been integrated, both hierarchically and contextually, into a pre-existing knowledge base without contradiction, with the use of reason. You mention that there is no framework. Nonsense! Reality is the framework. It is what we compare things to in order to see if they are correct or valid. Something is correct only in as much as it represents reality. It is our gold standard for everything. We have a proper framework for the size of planet Earth, sure our understanding of our planet will improve, but I know where I am, as much as I can, at the moment. Big is a relative term. So what if someone can describe it as both big and small; there are things a lot bigger and smaller. And the more knowledge you gain about something, the more comprehensive your understanding.

Absence of choice? Again, that's crazy. We all make many choices all day long. You just think there is a magical unmoved mover in the brain, linked into some quantum fuzzy mystical non-identifiable goop causing consciousness and reality itself, I guess. There are reasons why we do things and they are dependent on causality. Whether a human or another type of machine, if you can make a choice and act on it, you are responsible and hopefully will be brought to justice by a moral government, should you harm someone else. Morality is a guide to decision making you must obey if you are to be happy and it is the same for all of us, dictated by the structure of our brains and the rest of reality evolved over these many many years. Law is something we need to uphold freedom. It is very simple.

Your puzzle metaphor is awful. You are telling me that you know, for sure, than man cannot have knowledge. Skepticism fails at its front door. There is no house within. Metaphor, for you. As a 21st century well educated intelligent driven intellectually honest person curious about the nature of existence, knowledge and consciousness, I have a comprehensive understanding of the human condition with knowledge that has been integrated without contradiction into my contextually and hierarchical organized knowledge base framework. It is correct in and only in as much as it describes or does not contradict the gold-standard, the universe.

Man doesn't have control? You throw away basic knowledge you learn when you are 2 years old because you can draw some nebulous metaphor. No! Control and freedom are terms describing a relationship between entities. I have control over my cup enough to drink from it when I want, but not enough control to start my car with it. I am relatively free enough to go to work when I want, but less free from gravity. Both what you do with your cup and how you get to work are always dependent on causality.
Comment by John Camilli on January 22, 2011 at 4:14pm

Well, if this guy doesn't have the wherewithall to contradict you, I do, lol. Your comparison of therapeutic hypothermia to cryogenics is not adequate. Certainly therapeutic hypothermia has credible applications to a living system, but that is because it reduces/prevents inflammation and decreases metabolism, reducing the rate of decomposition when nutrients or the mechanisms that relay them are failing. Cryogenics is another ballgame because the entire system is reduced below freezing levels, meaning even the liquids within cells are crystalized. And it matters little how quickly a system is frozen, but a whole lot how it is re-animated. We've already had success with preserving human remains indefinately, but we cannot re-animate them thusfar because the thawing process is what causes the damage, rupturing delicate tissues and cell walls with the expanding liquid which still contains some very sharp crystals. Nothing about the efficacy of therapuetic hypothermia solves that problem, and short of removing the liquid from the living system, or developing atomic-scale nanomotes that can directly manipulate the process of state change, there's no way around it. Removing the liquids is an obvious fail, and by the time we have nanomotes of that size there will be much easier ways to survive forever. That's not to say that such nanomotes wouldn't be able to re-animate a frozen human, but the argument you made lent nothing to the feasability of cryogenics, all due respect.

 

Now, back to your assertion of the foundations of morality and motivation. Let me start by saying that I disagree vehemently, lol, and let me continue by explaining why. I suspect that the reasons I eat every day, seek companionship, or do anything at all, are the same as the reasons that I take a breath, or that my muscles contract when ATP is released into their tissue. They are chemical reactions. Even the feeling of wanting or not wanting those things is a chemical process. Some are more complex processes than others, even to the point that we cannot explain many of them yet, only the simplest kind. But that does not mean that the simple behaviors are causal, while the complex behaviors are a mystical mixture of causal and acausal reality. Yes, I used the word 'mystical,' and yes I really of think it's an appropriate word for the idea of "choice." Choice is just the hideously deformed, incestuous grandchild of vitalism.  

 

And in the absence of choice, morality becomes a mute point. There has to be responsiblity for morality to be a consideration, and there has to be informed control for responsibility to exist. I neither think man has control, nor that man is informed. It was in another post that you described what you call "knowledge," but I had to disagree with that description. Information can only be considered knowledge if it is understood as part of a total framework. If you ask me whether the Earth is big, and my framwork is only of Earth, then yes the Earth is big. If my framework is the solar system, it is not so big anymore, and if my framework is the known universe, then you have just given me a chuckle because the earth is practically non-existent by comparision. Without an accurate framework (which man does not have), judgements about information within that framework cannot be correct, so man cannot have knowledge. Man has information, but that is like having puzzle pieces with no border. We have no idea what picture is in the puzzle, or even how much of the puzzle is available to us. In all likelihood, we are each considering a different sized puzzle and looking at different pieces, due to the amount of information in our system, and compared to our system's resulting expectations of the total framework within which it exists.

Comment by MCT on January 21, 2011 at 12:00pm

JS,

 

"Cryopreservation cannot work for people." is not a valid assumption.

 

The preservation of the central nervous system by lowering body temperature in actuality does work now. As a physician I have personally used multiple therapeutic hypothermia protocols for central nervous system protection is patients who have suffered a myocardial infarction, primary arrhythmia, stroke and spinal cords injuries. This includes more than a couple patients who were pulseless and not breathing for up to an hour. My experience and research shows that when the brain is cooled, the damage is markedly slowed. And since it is structure that is necessary for function, it does stand to reason that cooling the CNS down in a faster deeper stable way can halt the inflammatory damage that occurs and is responsible for breakdown of identity and personhood. I've personal seen and I have also read about many people who were for all intents and purposes dead and are now walking around with intact memories of preceding events. Medical hypothermia does not even use cryoprotectants, which the transplant industry does and very successfully I might add. Cryoprotection solutions have been around for years and are getting better. Researchers have markedly minimized the macro and microscopic ice crystal and intracellular vacuole formation in vitrified animal brains. Progress is being made and, at this point, there is no logical obstruction to further progress.

 

So, you say that you have knowledge that it cannot work? Right. Show me. Neuro chemistry going south is a little metaphorical for me. Do you mean once the neurotransmitters are dysfunctional/imbalanced? Or do you mean that when the DNA, intracellular machinery and the rest of the cellular structure is disrupted past a certain point, it's irreparable? All we need do is slow the process down and vitrify, before irreversible damage occurs. And I have seen with my own eyes and research supports our ability, now, circa late 20th century early 21st, to halt this progress toward demise of potential brain function. There is very little difference between a live person about to die and that same person dead. Death is better understood as a process, not an event. It takes time for damage to accumulate. There is no reason to think that this will not work. I'm not saying that I know it will work for sure, but there is no reason to think that this will not be plausible in the future, where my vitrified body will be.

 

Actual science, huh? I guess if it was the year 1911, you would definitely be in the group that knows for sure that artificial hearts are not possible. Small robotic pieces of silicon in brains to allow deaf people to hear! Impossible! Man on the moon? No way! Those people were probably delusional and have no idea what actual science is.

 

Comment by Yusuf Said on January 21, 2011 at 8:39am
Cryopreservation cannot work for people. Once the neuro chemistry in the brain goes south, there is no bringing it back. Max More probably is delusional or just doesn't understand actual science.
Comment by MCT on January 20, 2011 at 5:25pm

I posit that your goal for living is still happiness. So you think life is blah. There will still be qualitative differences of goodness that you wish to maximize and pain that you wish to minimize. Everybody's brain does this until they commit suicide or are not free enough to make the decision. Why swallow food every day? Why seek companionship? Or achievement of any kind? Why play a game or read a book? Or go online? Because there is nothing better to do? Not buying it. We all have the same essential motivators. They are built in. Sure, you may prefer green colored walls and I blue, but the fundamentals of morality are the same. We both need to do the same basic things to survive and live happily or successfully.

 

 

Without the current sturcture of your brain, you, as a sentient being, cease to exist. Your existence necessitates your intact identity, which is physically stored in your head. Without it, you cannot be said to exist in any form, other than in memories and other recorded likenesses, none of which will contain your consciousness. Thermodynamics states nothing more than the potential energy stored in your body will be released in another form during decomposition, may it be chemical, kinetic, thermal, food for microbes, etc. The molecules that make up your body and hold your form will be recycled, but you will be dead. Destroyed. The form that makes you you will be gone.

 

The physical world precedes our perception of it. Our sense organs don't make mistakes and our noncontradictory integration of this perceptual evidence is knowledge. Our ability to use reason and logic for the acquisition of knowledge is what gives us humans our ability to manipulate our environment so well.

 

I concur almost completely with your last paragraph.

Comment by John Camilli on January 20, 2011 at 4:51pm
n interresting concept to consider, and one that I suspect few actually do, because they think the answer too obvious. I think it is not so obvious.

 

I even had this debate with someone a few days ago, and the arguments are fresh in my mind. They asserted that there are certain things I need to do in life because they keep me alive and living is motivation in itself. I said no it's not. Maybe it is for you because you enjoy living, and the joy you get is your motivator, but I do not define joy the same way you do, so your motivators can't be my motivators, and if I don't happen to be enjoying life enough to say it is worth the work, then life is not motivation in itself, at least not for me.

 

People always respond 'then why don't you kill yourself?' But the flip side of the argument is that I don't get anything out of death either, so I have no preference for either state. Each seems natural to me because I do not consider death a finality. Thermodynamics assures me that I will still be drifting around in some form or another, possibly to congeal into this or a similar mess again. I can't actually prove thermodynamics, and no scientist can either, but it makes sense to me so I go with it in the interrest of having an opinion at all.

 

But when it comes down to it, I can not even say that I have a solid opinion about anything, because I can understand a way in which every idea could be faulty, except for DesCartes "cogito ergo sum," which is why I think existentialism has to be the foundation of anything we would call knowledge. I suppose that's my only solid assertion, but I can't make any value judgements from that statement, so I have no relative valuations for life, death or anything in between.

 

Anyway, my response has been addressed almost directly to the title of your post and less to the full content. As for cryogenics and human immortality, or at least longevity, I'm all about it. I think that if we manage to survive ourselves for the next couple of decades we will master the human lifespan, whether by genetic manipulation, cybernetics, or by eschewing the body entirely and opting for digital existence, I think humans will have to start defining themselves as Gods very soon. It will be an interresting time to be alive.

Comment by MCT on January 20, 2011 at 2:12pm

I think it is a little too much to call him a fraud. Yes he cannot admit when his predictions do not come to fruition and I think his dates for technological advancement are too soon. But fraud? He is not lying to or misleading anyone, purposefully.  He simply writes about his opinions, which are based on reason and logic.

 

Funny that you associate Max More with profit, when it is a non-profit organization. I was thinking Maximize More Life!

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